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Service in the interest of Justice


Contempt of Court is generally referred as the offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers in the form of behavior that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court. There are two categories of contempt: being disrespectful to legal authorities in the courtroom or willfully failing to obey a court order.

Contempt of Court Order

Also Read-  NCLT Chandigarh


There are two types of contempt of court:

  1. Civil contempt: Under Section 2(b) of the Contempt of Courts Act of 1971, civil contempt is defined as willful disobedience to any judgement, decree, direction, order, writ or other process of a court or willful breach of an undertaking given to a court.
  2. Criminal contempt: Under Section 2(c) of the Contempt of Court Act of 1971, criminal contempt is defined as the publication ( whether by words, spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise) of any matter or the doing of any other act whatsoever which:
  • Scandalises or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court, or
  • Prejudices, or interferes or tends to interfere with the due course of any judicial proceeding, or
  • Interferes or tends to interfere with, or obstructs or tends to obstruct, the administration of justice in any other manner.

Also Read- Punjab and Haryana High Court


The elements essential for establishing a contempt are:

  1. The making of a valid court order.
  2. There should be knowledge of the order by respondent.
  3. The respondent should be able to render compliance.
  4. There should be willful disobedience of the order.

Also Read- Central Administrative Tribunal Chandigarh (CAT) Chandigarh


A third party to the proceeding may be guilty of contempt of court if they have a part to play in the offence. In LED Builders Pty Ltd v Eagles Homes Pty Ltd ((1999) FCA 1213) Lindgren J stated: “It is not necessary to show that a person who has aided and abetted a contempt of court was served with the order breached. It is necessary to show only that the person sought to be made liable knew of the order.”

Also Read-  RERA Law


In case a company is found guilty of contempt of court in respect of any undertaking given to a court, the person who at that time, was in charge of, and was responsible to the company for the conduct of business of the company shall be deemed to be guilty for the contempt and the punishment may be enforced, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of such person. However, if such person proves that the contempt was committed without his knowledge or that he exercised all due diligence to prevent its commission then the person will be exempted from the liability.


If the contempt of court has been committed by a company and I proved that the contempt has been committed with the consent or connivance of, or is attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the company, such director, manager, secretary or other officer shall also be deemed to be guilty of the be contempt and the punishment will be enforced against them as well, with the leave of the court, by the detention in civil prison of such director, manager, secretary or other officer.

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The Limitation period for actions of contempt has been defined under Section 20 of the Contempt of Court Act of 1971 and is a period of one year from the date on which the contempt is alleged to have been committed.


Article 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and High Court respectively to punish people for their respective contempt. Section 10 of The Contempt of Courts Act of 1971 defines the power of the High Court to punish contempt of its subordinate courts. Power to punish for contempt of court Articles 129 and 215 is not subject to Article 19(1)(a).

Under Section 12 of Contempt of Court Act 1971, a contempt of court can be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to Rs. 2000, or with both.

Also Read-  All you need to know about Criminal Law

However, in civil cases if the court considers that a fine will not meet the ends of justice and that a sentence of imprisonment is necessary then it shall, instead of sentencing him to simple imprisonment, direct that he be detained in a civil prison for such period not exceeding six months as it may think fit.

The court is not supposed to impose a sentence for contempt of court in excess of what is prescribed under this section either in respect of itself or of a court subordinate to it.

An accused may be discharged or the punishment awarded may be remitted on apology being made by the accused to the satisfaction of the court. An apology is not supposed to be rejected merely on the ground that it is qualified or conditional if the accused makes it bona fide.

Also Read- General Legal Know-How.


The amendment of 2006 introduced Clause (b) of Section 13 of Contempt of Court Act of 1971 that allows the accused to raise the defense of justification by truth of such contempt, if the court is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defense is bona fide.

However, no court shall impose a sentence under this act for a contempt of court unless it is satisfied that the contempt is of such a nature that it substantially interferes, or tends substantially to interfere with the due course of justice.

This post is written by Dipti Prakash of Punjab University (2020 batch). For more info on subject, please dial 99888-17966.

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